TV stand with integrated audio-system provides a mix of convenience and quality
The appeal of a soundbar is obvious, but here we have something a little different – the Somle Silent White, a substantially built and easily-assembled TV stand with fixed-height (150mm) glass equipment-shelf and a integrated soundbase thrown in.
I’m personally quite taken with the Silent's glossy-white Euro-modern appearance. But if your décor is more antique than IKEA, it might not fit in. Behind the metal grilles reside the front-facing drive units – a 1.5in dome tweeter and 4in bass/mid driver for each channel – which are positioned as close as possible towards the cabinet's left and right extremes in order to maximise stereo separation. There's also a down-firing 8in subwoofer.
Volume and source functions, as well as bass/treble control and a quintet of DSPs, are controlled via touch-controls or the supplied handset. Among the source options are HDMI (two ports, with basic 'loopthrough' output; the Silent offers no OSDs or ARC) and Bluetooth 4.0 feature for unlocking the music collection of your smartphone or tablet.
The HDMI passthrough output is stripped of audio, presumably so that you don't have to mute the TV. In standby, it won't pass the AV stream of the last-used HDMI source. This means you can't insert your AV amplification into the HDMI loop, using the Silent for regular viewing and a full surround sound rig at other times. The Silent's other inputs (analogue stereo, optical/coaxial digital) can, however, provide an inelegant workaround.
The Movies DSP transcended expectations with my Oblivion Blu-ray, especially when you consider that the Silent doesn't handle 5.1 soundtracks (it's 2-channel/downmix only). A sense of scale is hinted at – the deep 'thuds' of the manoeuvring drones are given the necessary weight courtesy of the sub.
You don't get the palpable sonic envelope that a good multichannel system creates around you – depth is limited. The system's talents are more evident when recreating the subtler ambiences (the birdsong of the secret retreat or the dripping water in New York's public library). Interestingly, the news mode also boasts virtual surround – but with a tiny amount of reverb added. Night mode compresses the audio's dynamic range and gives it a rather thin presentation, but will help when you don't want to disturb others.
Compared to my Samsung flatscreen the Silent gives a considerably more fulsome sound, marked by presence at both frequency extremes. Dialogue sounds a tad dry, but I'd rather have that than cabinet rattle or a boxy colouration. And listening to various music genres via Bluetooth, or from BBC4's Friday-night output was enjoyable. The Silent get close to good budget hi-fi.
Overall, this good-looking stand may have some restrictions, but will find fans. Its top surface will accommodate practically all TVs up to 55in, and the two-channel audio performance is decent.
Somle Silent White
Price: £700 Approx
Highs: Looks great; robust construction; numerous inputs; transformative sound quality relative to average TV
Lows: Lacks true surround; limited HDMI passthrough; shelf is fixed (and your gear mustn't impede the down-firing subwoofer!)
Drive units: 2 x 1.5in dome tweeters; 2 x 8in paper-coned bass/mid drivers; 1 x 8in paper-coned subwoofer
On board power: 130W(RMS)
Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output, coaxial digital, optical digital, stereo analogue phono, Bluetooth
Remote control: Yes
Dimensions: 1,212(w) x 430(h) x 420(d)mm
Features: Easy self-assembly; 1135mm-long shelf with fixed 150mm vertical clearance; five sound effects modes (SRS, movie, news, music, night); bass/treble controls; Bluetooth 4.0 with range up to 8m; front-panel touch controls and volume-level indicator; HDMI output passes video (inc 3D) but not audio
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